ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles by Sukumar MuralidharanSubscribe to Sukumar Muralidharan

"Forty-Eight Hours": A Home Minister Murders the Constitution with Express Delivery of Death

The rush and secrecy with which Afzal Guru’s execution was carried out under the orders of Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde post the presidential rejection of his clemency petition, is an affront to civilised values enshrined in the Constitution. Considering the circumstances of Afzal Guru’s conviction and execution, could it be said that he simply was a man who had to be eliminated, since he had too much knowledge of the dimensions of India’s two-decade long dirty war in Kashmir?

A Judicial Doctrine of Postponement and the Demands of Open Justice

The doctrine of "postponement" propounded by the Supreme Court with numerous safeguards against possible abuse is not quite immune to arbitrary interpretation. Indeed, it could well become an instrument in the hands of wealthy and influential litigants, to subvert the course of open justice.

The March of Virtue: Phase 4 in the Anna Hazare Crusade

Two constructions of virtue are in contention as Anna Hazare prepares for the fourth phase of his agitation. For team Anna, virtue is a closely held monopoly, embodied in its leader’s self-denial and moral resoluteness, consistently denied in the electoral fray and endangered by the ruthless competition between parties to extend their patronage networks. For team Manmohan Singh, virtue is just as rare an attribute, typically found in close proximity with extreme wealth, and worthy of special commendation since it could easily slip into its opposite. Corporate India though, still has unmet expectations and Manmohan Singh is their best assurance of securing these. Media loyalties in team Anna's fourth phase of campaign are therefore, likely to lie with the prime minister who sees wealth as the marker of virtue.

Media Follies and Supreme Infallibility

The Supreme Court has taken steps to lay down a code for media reporting. This attempt at prior restraint on the media is a dangerous move with precedent from authoritarian polities. In a context where the judiciary has been lax in defending the media from attacks which seek to curb its freedom, such unilateral moves will not remedy bad reporting but rather make conditions worse for the media to play its role. The way to cure the ills of a media corralled within corporate and political interests is to give it greater freedom from curbs.

Turmoil in Syria

The Syrian civil war is not merely about that country any more. If it continues for any further length of time, it could draw in virtually every country of consequence in the wider region. In this, it could well be the prelude to a civil war involving the entire Arab world. And that would be potentially a fatal challenge to the key principles of western geopolitics in the region: to keep Iran out, Arab nationalism down and Israel on top.

Explaining the Mundane, Excluding the Voices of Dissent

The US-India Nuclear Pact: Policy, Process and Great Power Politics by Harsh V Pant (Delhi: Oxford University Press), 2011; pp xii + 150, Rs 450.

Press Council as Bully Pulpit: A Debate on Media That Could Go Nowhere

After the strong opinions about the media expressed by the chairperson of the Press Council of India and the tone of the counter-response from media associations and groups, where the debate will proceed from here is anybody's guess. But the tone has dropped several notches and the media industry is unlikely to let yet another opportunity pass to push back against a potentially constructive public debate on transparency and accountability.

Media as Echo Chamber: Cluttering the Public Discourse on Corruption

In its approach to Anna Hazare's 13-day long protest fast, the media again made itself part of the story. Missing in the frenzy was any effort to arrive at an understanding of what "corruption" meant to the people joining the protest. Also lacking was a sense of tolerance for alternative views on a complex social phenomenon. Far from reflecting the complex and multilayered anxieties that underpin the growing popular restiveness with governance processes, the media chose to present a singular authoritarian point of view as the true and authentic voice of all Indians. The implications for the quality of the public discourse on the future of democracy are grim.

End of the Left in India?

In a minor replay of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Indian media have been gloating at the defeat of the Left Front in West Bengal especially and have repeatedly suggested that this signals the “end of the Left in India”. Even at the best of times our news channels tend to avoid serious...

Hazare and His Children

Anna Hazare's hunger fast last week for probity in politics captured the news agenda and unleashed a nationwide frenzy. Declarations of victory may be premature since the real work of drafting a law on the Lokpal is only just beginning. Corruption is not an abstract evil that can be combated by the virtuous few. It is about imbalances of power and the subversion of democratic goals by elite manipulation. Dealing with corruption is about deepening participatory democracy, rather than disdaining politics as the fount of all iniquity.

Media: Stenographer to Power

For a news media that is often in pursuit of the lowest common denominator of audience taste, the Radia tapes offered a story that had sensation in abundant measure. Yet, save a handful of exceptions, the story has been consigned to a black hole of neglect. The news media has increasingly been seen as a stenographer to power and an instrument for harnessing every form of dissent to dominant structures. The Radia tapes show that it has been actually engaged in a more sordid enterprise than stenography - it has been an active and eager participant in the abuse of power.

Undoing the Supreme Follies: The Receding Prospects of Justice for Bhopal

Justice is at a dead end for the victims of Bhopal's chemical holocaust. The new political common sense is that this is the outcome of an intrusion by the judiciary into areas it had no business entering, and a concurrent abdication of responsibility by the executive and legislature. The government has taken the onus of tidying up the mess, but this job is unlikely to be easy, given that it needs the judicial imprimatur at every step. If it plays true to form, the judiciary is likely to be more concerned with defending its dubious track record than with upholding the cause of justice.


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